Crowley had gone. Too easily to Dean's mind. The demon had just shrugged, given his trademark smirk and blinked from existence in the bunker. They took the next few hours of quiet to take some downtime - a shower, a shave, ram some food into their mouths.

Dean sat on the side of his bed, his elbows on his knees. He was tired. Bone tired. And his guilt churned his gut. He should have felt hope, but in all honesty the knowledge of what he had done; the months of brutality, the insane decisions, the darkness that had taken over his soul, were smashing into the last remaining vestiges of his memory of himself as a passably decent human being.

His fingernails raked through the damp strands of his newly washed hair.

"Dean."

Castiel's voice startled him and he jerked his head up.

"Cas. What're you doing here?" He couldn't keep the weariness out of his voice, or the punch to the gut the sudden proximity brought.

"I don't need to eat or sleep." Castiel frowned at Dean. "Should I leave?"

Dean stood hurriedly. "No. Don't. I mean…" He looked around his spartan quarters, then back at Castiel. "Did you need to talk to me?"

"Yes."

Castiel stood there in silence, studying Dean's face. Dean watched him warily, and shoved his hands in the pockets of the blue tracksuit pants he had donned after his shower.

"Well?" Dean broke the silence first.

Castiel squinted a little. "I'm formulating my words into a sentence in my head first. I don't want to cause you offence."

Dean flinched. "Look, just fire the shot, Cas. I have got it coming."

"Don't be an ass." Castiel said drily.

Dean quirked a smile despite himself. "An ass, Cas?"

"Yes. I'm not going to yell at you, Dean." Castiel folded his hands neatly before him.

"Alright then." Dean leant against the small table where he piled all the crap out of his pockets at the end of day. Where he tossed his jacket and sunglasses. He defensively folded his arms. "Go ahead."

"I'm aware there are certain … feelings that have developed between us."

Dean's eyes widened with surprise. "Cas…"

"Let me finish please." The mild look was rapidly disappearing from Castiel's face. "I have earned that much."

Dean flinched, his eyes dropping to the ground.

"Earned it because I am your friend, Dean. Not at first, but unless I have very much mistaken all the indications, you see me as a friend."

"Yeah, of course," Dean said awkwardly, his shoulders hunching. "Of course you are, Cas."

"And I meant it when I said I would have stood with you until the end of the world."

"I know, Cas. I know."

"So when I say that I believe that feelings may have developed between us, I want you to understand that I mean it in the sense of beyond friendship. Beyond comradeship." Castiel rocked briefly back and forth on his heels, his features tense and set.

"Did you read my mind?" Dean asked, grimly, his shoulders tensing. "Did you use that mojo to poke around up there?"

Castiel shook his head slowly. "No. That would be an invasion of your privacy. I respect you too much to do that - unless I felt it was of absolute necessity, essential to saving your life."

"Cas … look. I …" Dean's shoulders slumped, one hand rising and falling in a helpless gesture.

"Is my form not pleasing? I know your preference has always been for the female form in the past."

"Your form is … fine, Cas." Dean gripped the edge of the table, his hands white knuckled.

Castiel moved forward a step, just crowding Dean a little. "I find your form fine as well."

"You're an angel of Heaven, Cas." Dean ground out from between clenched teeth as his gaze dropped briefly to Castiel's mouth and back up again. "Isn't this kind of thing banned?"

"Yes," Castiel said simply.

"And your kind can get thrown out of heaven for that kind of thing. We just got through talking with Crowley about not enlisting a whole bunch of you lot who decided to shake the sheets with humans."

"It was more complicated than that, Dean. I am more complicated than that."

"Tell me about it." Dean sighed and drew a hand down his face. "Yeah. Alright. Cas, what I got in here for you…" He tapped his chest. "It's more than I have held for anyone outside family. Hell, I was even willing to kill Sammy up to a certain point." He grimaced.

"But?"

"I can't want you, Cas. You are a … pure, decent person." Dean shook his head. "I have run out of forgiveness for the things I have done. Forgiveness for myself. And I won't be responsible for wrecking another good, decent thing in this damn world."

"I am not so very decent, Dean." Castiel held out his hand, palm up. Steady and inexorable, it hung between them.

Dean stared at it, a hounded expression on his face. Castiel made a soft sound, almost a sigh.

"Dean. Please. Take my hand."

Dean hesitantly covered Castiel's palm with his. The angel returned the grip firmly. Dean winced, waiting, staring at their joined hands. He looked up at Castiel finally. The angel was watching him with a faintly amused expression.

"We have touched before, Dean." Dean flushed slightly and muttered something under his breath. Castiel's eyebrows rose. "And neither of us were sent to anywhere like Hell before."

"Figure of speech, Cas." Dean frowned after a moment. "I feel like an idiot standing here like this."

"Do you?" Castiel reached up with his other hand and drew the back of his knuckles over the scruff of Dean's beard. "How strange that I do not."

Dean caught Castiel's wrist, and met the bright, blue gaze of the angel. "Cas. You shouldn't …"

"You cannot make my decisions for me, Dean." Cas' hand curved over Dean's jaw. His thumb traced the curve of Dean's lower lip. "But I will abide by your decision. If this is something you do not want, I will stop touching you. I will stop until the day you ask me to start again."

Dean's other hand splayed over the middle of Castiel's back. He moved until there was but a breath between them, his desire darkened green eyes searched Castiel's open, honest expression.

"Cas …" Dean's voice was a low murmur. Their lips were a heartbeat from touching. He released Castiel's wrist, cupped the other man's cheek and leaned in. The kiss was light, almost less real than the caress of their fingers. Cas gripped the back of Dean's threadbare t-shirt with a fist and pressed himself closer, the folds of his trench coat almost enveloping them both.

It was many minutes before they broke apart to take a much needed breath, at least on Dean's part. His face was flushed, and his heart thundered in his chest. Castiel's hand splayed over the pounding rhythm.

"So fast," he murmured.

"Yeah well," Dean's mouth quirked faintly, "For an angel, you did a pretty good job in rocking my world."

"For a human, you were quite satisfactory also." Castiel nodded seriously.

"Satisfactory?" Dean's eyes narrowed.

"I have limited capacity for comparison." Castiel frowned faintly. "I have not kissed many humans."

"Hey Dean? You in there?" Sam's voice could be heard out in the corridor.

Dean raised a hand, pressing his fingers tightly to his eyes. "Damn it."

"I will depart. I'm glad we had this conversation. Cleared the air, as you like to say."

"Cas…" Dean grabbed Castiel's hand, holding it against his chest. "Until… I don't…"

"You wish to maintain secrecy until you work out where your feelings truly reside." Castiel nodded in his quiet way. "Of course."

Dean yanked Cas forward for a brief, hard kiss.

The sound of the door opening had him blinking out.

Sam leaned on the door handle and studied Dean's odd position, one arm curved out, the other pressed across his chest. "You alright there?"

Dean took a deep breath. "Stretching." He awkwardly twisted himself into an odd position.

Sam frowned, his head tilted. "Right. Sure. You got a minute? Been doing some research."

"Yeah. Be right there." Dean nodded.

When Sam closed the door behind him he leaned back on the table again and dropped his chin wearily to his chest. What the HELL was he doing? Cas had only to touch him and his brain went to frickin' mush.